Our daily cases reached a new high of over 25,000 today. Hospitals, polyclinics and General Practitioner (GP) clinics are very busy, and healthcare workers are under severe pressure. It may take a few weeks before the transmission wave peaks and subsides.
2. This has resulted in two problems. First, while the number of patients needing oxygen supplementation and intensive care unit (ICU) care is not high, there is a surge in demand for hospital beds, mostly for patients with underlying chronic illnesses to recover.
3. The Ministry of Health (MOH) is doing whatever we can to support our healthcare providers. These include ramping up capacity in our hospitals, right-siting patients at COVID-19 Treatment Facilities (CTFs) as much as possible, spreading patient load to private hospitals, allowing residents in nursing homes to recover in-situ and supplementing our healthcare manpower with the SG Healthcare Corps as well as Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) medics. We have also further adjusted our health protocols to allow more patients to be able to recover at home.
Assistance from Employers
4. Second, many patients coming forward to hospitals, polyclinics and GP clinics have no or mild symptoms. They would like to get an Antigen Rapid Test (ART) conducted by a medical professional and documented in MOH’s records, or to request for a medical certificate. This has added significant workload to our healthcare providers who are already under significant pressure and stress.
5. Our healthcare service providers will need help and cooperation from employers and members of the public. We urge employers not to insist that employees provide medical certificates or recovery memos if they have tested positive for COVID-19. They are encouraged to remind employees who are at low risk and have mild symptoms or are physically well to isolate and recover at home instead of visiting clinics or hospitals. They can submit a photograph of their test results or a video of them taking the ART.
Do not rush to Emergency Department if it is not an emergency
6. For the public, we encourage individuals that unless they are experiencing an emergency, not to rush to a hospital emergency department (ED). Patients who walk into EDs with non-emergency conditions, including children, may be diverted to other urgent care clinics or primary care clinics for further assessment, so as to prioritise ED resources for patients who need the medical care.
Alternatives for Medical Attention
7. For those who require medical attention, we encourage them to consult a primary care doctor first. To help spread out peak patient load at private clinics, we will extend the operating hours of Public Health Preparedness Clinics (PHPCs) with effect from 25 February 2022 to 10 March 2022 (inclusive). Selected PHPCs across the island will operate weekday nights (up to 11pm), weekend afternoons (Saturdays and Sundays, 2pm to 5pm), and weekend nights (Saturdays and Sundays, up to 11pm). Selected polyclinics will also be operating on Saturday afternoons and Sunday mornings. Please visit flu.gowhere.gov.sg for the list of clinics providing these time-limited extended hours.
8. From 26 February 2022, the Combined Test Centres (CTCs) will provide access to telemedicine consultations for symptomatic members of the public who go to CTCs for testing during the weekends. The telemedicine doctors will be able to provide face-to-face video consultations, and prescribe and deliver medications if need be. The testing and consultations will be funded by the Government during this period. The booking of Acute Respiratory Infection (ARI) testing and telemedicine consultation appointment at the CTCs can be made at go.gov.sg/ari-weekend-testing.
9. Individuals can also approach MOH-approved telemedicine providers to consult a doctor virtually. These telemedicine providers are able to provide both tele-consults and administer a tele-ART (i.e. real-time virtually supervised ART self-swab). For a list of telemedicine providers who are able to provide such services, please go to www.flu.gowhere.gov.sg.
Self-Recovery under Protocol 2
10. Importantly, we encourage those who have mild or no symptoms but tested positive, to consider self-recovery at home, under Protocol 2.
11. Individuals require an official record for various reasons. The first is to be exempted from Rostered Routine Testing (RRT), if they work in certain industries. However, we will be stepping down RRT for most industries, except for the healthcare, eldercare, and pre-school sectors. The second is for the individual to prove that he was previously infected, should he be tested PCR positive when he travels. However, we are also stepping down PCR test for travellers.
12. The third is to be exempted from a booster shot. While a fully-vaccinated individual who has been infected with COVID-19 is exempted from a booster shot, we encourage such individuals to still take their booster dose, in order to be adequately protected against the COVID-19 virus.
13. The Expert Committee on COVID-19 Vaccination (EC19V) recommends that these individuals may receive a booster dose 28 days after infection, although they are recommended to do so three months from the infection for better effectiveness. Our vaccination centres have therefore been administering booster shots to persons who are due to receive a booster, 28 days after infection. So those who have been infected do not have to wait three months. This means that most infected and recovered individuals can take their booster shots well within the 270 days after their primary series, and before their fully vaccinated status lapses.
Everyone has a part to play
14. We seek everyone’s continued effort and cooperation to do our part to preserve our medical resources for those who need them most.